Fabrication of Ultrasound Transducers and Arrays Integrated within Needles for Imaging Guidance and Diagnosis

  • Rachael McPhillips

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    As opposed to current Intraoperative Ultrasound (IOUS) systems and their relatively large probes and limited superficial high frequency imaging, the use of a biopsy needle with an integrated transducer that is capable of minimally invasive and high-resolution ultrasound imaging is proposed. Such a design would overcome the compromise between resolution and penetration depth which is associated with the use of a probe on the skins surface. It is proposed that during interventional procedures, a transducer array positioned at the tip of a biopsy needle could provide real-time image guidance to the clinician with regards to the needle position within the tissue, and aid in the safe navigation of needles towards a particular target such as a tumour in tissues such as the breast, brain or liver, at which point decisions surrounding diagnosis or treatment via in vivo tissue characterisation could be made. With this objective, challenges exist in the manufacturing these miniature scale devices and their
    incorporation into needle packages. The reliable realisation of miniature ultrasound transducer arrays on fine-scale piezoelectric composites, and establishing interconnects to these devices which also fit into suitably sized biopsy needles are two such hurdles.
    In this thesis, the fabrication of miniature 15 MHz ultrasound transducers is presented. The first stage of development involved the production of single element transducers in needles ~2 mm inner diameter, using various piezoelectric materials as the active material. These devices were tested and
    characterised, and the expertise developed during their fabrication was used as the foundation upon which to design a wafer-scale fabrication process for the production of multiple 15 MHz transducer arrays. This process resulted in a 16 element 15 MHz array connected to a flexible printed circuit board and integrated into a breast biopsy needle. Characterisation tests demonstrated functionality of each of the 16 elements, both individually and combined as an array.
    To explore potential applications for these devices, the single element transducers were tested in fresh and Thiel embalmed cadaveric brain tissue. Plasticine targets were embedded in these brain models and the needle transducers were tested as navigational real-time imaging tools to detect these targets within the brain tissue. The results demonstrated feasibility of such devices to determine the location of the target as the needle devices were advanced or withdrawn from the tissue, showing promise for future devices enabling neurosurgical guidance of interventional tools in the brain.
    The application of breast imaging was also considered. Firstly, Thiel embalmed cadaveric breasts were assessed as viable breast models for ultrasound imaging. Following this, anatomical features, with diagnostic significance in relation to breast cancer i.e. axillary lymph nodes and milk ducts, were imaged using a range of ultrasound frequencies (6 – 40 MHz). This was carried out to determine
    potential design parameters (i.e. operational frequency) of an interventional transducer in a biopsy needle probe which would best visualise these features and aid current breast imaging and diagnosis procedures.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSarah Vinnicombe (Supervisor) & Christine Demore (Supervisor)


    • High frequency ultrasound
    • Transducer arrays
    • Needle
    • Imaging
    • Fabrication

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